What About Free Heat?

We’ve covered heating systems where you supply SOMETHING to make it work, electricity or fuel. What about systems that don’t need that? Can we get everything for nothing and can it be done at industrial scale? The Power of the Sun The sun is a massive, nuclear fireball, bombarding the Earth with numerous forms of radiation day in and day out. Nearly all the warmth on the planet comes from the sun. Even in the middle of winter, there is a TON of heat being blasted down on us. Just look at Pluto, which gets essentially no sunlight. It would make the ice planet Hoth look like Miami. This difference means that there is an abundance of energy, it’s just not enough to make the whole area toasty and warm. Air currents and shorter days reduce the total heat delivered and cause an overall lower temperature, but there is still a ton of heat. Think about it. If we have a large window into a well insulated room, the sun will heat that room up, regardless of the season. That’s without using any engineering to make it an efficient process. It’s just the natural conversion of radiation into heat. Thermal Engineering The most important part of a solar hot water system is to squeeze as much energy out of the sun as possible. This comes down to the design of the pipes in the rooftop component, a Thermosiphon, what they’re […]

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The Science Behind Insulation

Insulation is essential to a comfortable and efficient environment. The essential point of insulation is to isolate your indoor environment from the outdoor environment. We want to control the flow of heat, energy, into and out of our workspaces as much as possible. To pull this off, we need to find the worst conductors and most obstructive blockers in history. We need to make the opposite of a radiator, a blocker.   Blocking the Heat Insulation works against three basic ideas: Conduction Heat which is passed through a surface. Consider the copper pipes used to heat a home. The heat spreads through them. If you hold a torch to one end, the pipe will be hot even feet away from the heat source. It conducts the heat. Convection Heat which moves with the air. A typical gas or electric oven uses convection. The air is heated and circulated around the thing that is being heated. Radiation Put down the hazmat suit. We mean heat caused by intense light. This is the sort of heat used in laser cutters. This is the heat of the sun and all its powerful infrared and ultraviolet rays. This is the kind of heat that turns a sitting car into an oven. The most comment type of insulation is going to work against conductive heat flow. This is that fluffy material behind your walls. These insulations are rated with an R-Value, their Thermal Resistance to […]

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Blizzard Testing Your HVAC System

Can you tell it’s winter yet? Is it safe to come out yet? Here in the North East, Mother Nature has just finished her first major storm of the season. We can confirm that no one at Procure is interested in living in the far, Arctic North after experiencing days-straight of subzero temperatures. We were within spitting distance of water being able to freeze before it hits the ground. Along the way, we also got to push our heating systems to their edges and see where we really should’ve built things differently. Edge Case Testing During normal operation, it’s doubtful you’ll ever see something out of place in a well designed heating system. If you engineered a system for an average winter, then chances are you can turn your home or office any temperature you like during average weather. It can be ten degrees outside, but a sweltering 92 inside. When nature throws you a curve ball you get to see where the weaknesses are in your heating system. More extreme weather, is more stress on the system. More stress is going to show you what parts can’t keep up. This breaks down to a problem of numbers. The sum-total of heat you can put in the air is XX. Your building loses heat to the air at a rate of YY. Severe winds increase this rate by ZZ. In order to stay warm XX needs to be greater than […]

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Measuring the Heat

Have you ever wondered how your heating system knows to turn on? Or to turn off? You could say “the furnace controller tells it to” and “the thermostat tells it to,” but that’s not the whole picture, is it? We need a way to measure the temperature inside the furnace and inside our homes. It has to be durable, reliable, and affordable. It doesn’t have to be precise, but it must be right every time it’s measured.   A Complex Web of Technology There are a staggering number of ways to control a furnace through temperature input. A brief and nowhere near all-inclusive list of techniques include: Gas Expansion Tubes, Bi-Metal Switches, Bi-Metal Coils, Thermocouples Driven by a Pilot-Light, Thermistors, and of course modern IR Temperature Sensors found in your enthusiast-chef’s kitchen. These devices are all in some way sensitive to the heat. Bi-Metal systems expand as temperatures change. Measuring the expansion reads the approximate temperature. Gas Expansion Tubes have an internal change in pressure as temperature changes. The pressure can be used to calculate temperature. Thermocouples generate an electrical current when they’re heated. Measuring the current allows you to determine the temperature. Inside a furnace, they’re often heated directly by the pilot light or burner to read flame temperatures. Infrared Thermometers measure “Blackbody (Wikipedia Link)” radiation, but aren’t all that effective around metals or the air. And lastly, we have the humble Thermistor, which varies it’s resistance based on […]

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